Polish exchange student: 'My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists'
Poor Polish student Michael Gromek. The 19-year-old came here to North Carolina on a student exchange, and he was placed with a fundie host family. For six months, he was trapped in their world, learning about sin and being on the receiving end of attempts to cleanse his soul of satanic influence.
This is not the first impression of the U.S. that you want to give someone from abroad. Even worse, this is a heinous first impression of the South. We’re not all a bunch of fundie crazies, but what else would you believe after an experience like this? (Spiegel Online):
“When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, ‘Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.’ At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.
Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn’t had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.
OK, see what happens when you cannot release that pent up sexual tension in a productive, healthy way — it makes you nuts. Gromek knew that he had to get out of there — these folks had plans for him.
Then, seeing as we were already on the topic of God’s will, the religious zealots finally brought up a subject which had clearly been on their minds for a long time: They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God’s will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me — I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow — I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.
He finally requested a new host family after 4 months of this, and lo and behold, his fundie family started acting less-than-Christian towards him.
From that moment on, I counted the days. The two months that followed my decision were hell. My host parents detested me. There were constant rows. I could sense that they just wanted to get rid of me. They didn’t know what to do with me any more.
His new host family — still in NC — proved to be a good, sane match — whew.
Many thanks to coturnix to pointing me to this first-person tale of horror.